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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Taking a Life

"If you can't be safe, be deadly."
Unknown U.S. Army Ranger

What is Okinawan-Karate really about?

- Self-Defense?
- Exercise and Physical Training?
- Maintaining Okinawan Traditions?
- None of the above?

Karate is about a singular event in your life, the moment you either take another person's life of give them yours. Karate is about life and death, that moment where years or decades of training suddenly are called upon and you either live or die.

I know, sounds melodramatic; but it's not.

I can train you in karate, I can teach you blocks, punches, kicks, yadda-yadda-yadda, but how do you learn to kill? How do you take a technique you've learnt in a safe, nurturing environment with other yudansha who you know will not intentional hurt, maim, or kill you and suddenly move beyond those limitations and terminate another man's life?

"Well I can train full contact."

You can, in it might help, but in that moment of singularity when the awareness leaps into you mind and you realize "for me to live, I must kill", how do you prepare, more importantly how do I prepare you for that moment?

We've all heard the instructors, at that time of month when their testosterone it at it's highest, encouraging you to "gouge their eyes out. … rip of their arm and beat them to death with it…" and other mindless pabulum. If you're 12 years old it does sound C-O-O-O-O-L but it's dumb. It doesn't work. Worse yet, if you do injure, or maim someone their lawyer will sue you AND your instructor who spouted off that maniacal crap.

Few martial arts students have been in actual hand-to-hand, life-or-death combat. So what we say we would do is based on a mindless repetition of what other equally mindless peers and instructors have told us. Maybe we should consider thinking for ourselves?

You've probably never heard of Col. David Grossman, but you should have. He's not a martial artist in the oriental sense of the word but he is a true renaissance martial artist. He's an Army Ranger and PhD psychologist who taught psychology at West Point (the U.S. Army Military Academy). His expertise is in how we teach young boys out of high school to become killers when everything in society tell them such behavior is abhorrent.

Col. Grossman is the developer of The The Warrior Science Group. He has written such books as; "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society",. . . "On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace", . . . "Warrior Mindset", . . . and others.

As a paramedic/critical care/emergency/flight and Air Force nurse I will tell you the human body is, at best, frail. Death can be produced easily. It's not like the movies; there's no sound track, not drums; one second you're alive and the next second your dead. It's that simple. The next morning the monthly bills arrive, a new contestant is thrown off Survivor, the phone rings, Email continues, etc. The world continues to turn, unaware, unaffected, by the death.

Funerals, Wakes, Stencils on Windshields, are NOT about the dead, they are about the survivors.

The physical act of killing is a surprisingly simple task. The psychological preparation prior to taking a life and the psychological preparation for dealing with the aftermath is far more difficult and training I have never seen in a dojo or even talked about except in mindless "manly" banter. Colonel Grossman breaks down the B.S. into the reality of the act.

If you are not familiar with Col Grossman's works, consider "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" it's available in both print and audio CD. He talks about the detrimental effects of learning to kill to the individual and society. In the process you learn a lot about how individuals become indoctrinated and capable of killing despite societal admonitions against such acts.

Think about it, I can teach your 4,000 different bunkai to 27 different kata and in a fight you'll throw up you arm and cower behind them while you opponent rains down the blows. Or if we follow the Osensei's teaching when he says "it takes 10 years of training to become proficient in one kata" we respond instinctively, muscle memory, mindlessly and yet completely mindful. "Mizo no kokoro" in all it's beauty and simplicity!

You may have the most perfect execution of Kusanku, your dojo buddies have acclaimed you as the next Bruce Lee, but on the street, when assaulted, you will do three things; block, punch and low kick. Why? Because THOSE are instinctual, mindfully mindless. If you stop to think about what technique to do next, or worse yet, you've learned SO many techniques you can make up you mind what to use; you're road-kill.

Street thugs, hit-and-run "gangstas", don't train in the dojo for years like we do, they learn the art of the sucker punch. The sucker punch is great, when delivered properly is has a 80-90% success rate. Best yet, when it fails the assailant simply runs away. What would you do? No not that insane stream of martial arts conciseness running through your head right now but in reality; WHAT WILL YOU DO?(how do you know?)


Cox Hakase

References: - The Warrior Science Group - Killolgy Research Group

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